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Sovetskaya Gavan: waiting for ships

The once well-known outpost of the country in the Tatar Strait, the end point of the BAM, the center of ship repair and fishing, the city of Sovetskaya Gavan in the Khabarovsk Territory is going through hard times.

Mayor of the city Pavel Borovsky told EastRussia about the glorious past of Sovetskaya Gavan, about hopes and plans for the future

Sovetskaya Gavan: waiting for ships
Photo: press center of the administration of the city of Sovetskaya Gavan

- What would you tell about Sovetskaya Gavan to a person who has never been here?

- Sovetskaya Gavan is the most convenient natural harbor in the world. Here ends - and begins for us - the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Here the frigate "Pallada", which reached the Far East with a diplomatic mission, to Japan from Kronstadt in 1856, was flooded here - so that the enemy would not get it during the Crimean War - in 1853, the writer Ivan Goncharov, the author of "Oblomova "And the book of essays" Frigate "Pallas". Earlier, Sovetskaya Gavan was a city of ship repairers, shipbuilders, military of all branches of the military. There was a base for ocean fishing, which in the best times employed about three thousand people. Now all this is gone, the military is practically gone, the factories have been standing for a long time, but the main holidays in the city are still the Day of the Navy and the Day of the Fisherman. A little more than 22 thousand people live here, people work mainly in the social sphere, in the municipal service, there is little employment in construction - recently they have built a CHP, a little in the forest industry, in the fish industry ... There are no large industries, the largest team is about 300 a person is just at the new CHP. We are waiting for large investors, maybe even the state will come in and begin to revive the former glory of our city.

- And how many people were in the best years in Sovetskaya Gavan, when everything worked?

- In total, at the best times, there were up to 65 thousand people in the region, now ... up to 40 is good if there are about 38 thousand people, this is if the entire region, all settlements are counted.

Port of Sovetskaya Gavan
Photo: Press Service of the Government of Khabarovsk Territory

- And what is the main problem of Sovetskaya Gavan? Or is she not alone? How do you solve it during those 12 years that you have been the head of the city?

- Of course, there is more than one problem, and they are all interconnected. The fleet - both civilian and military - disappeared - shipyards were closed, there were no town-forming enterprises left, the city lost its economy. And since then we have all been trying to work as "attracted", trying to attract investors to our territory. This is partly possible, we create comfortable conditions for them, to accompany them, we work with the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, we pin great hopes on the preferences that have spread to us thanks to the Free Port of Vladivostok regime. But many investors are stopped by the weak transport infrastructure - we have only one track of the railway laid to us. And now, when instructions were given for BAM-2, we somehow dropped out of all plans. The modernization of the railway, the expansion of the carrying capacity is planned only to Vanino, although the BAM actually, I remind you, begins and ends here. And we would very much like the modernization plans to be supplemented, because one more branch of the railway is vitally important for us.

- You say you work as "attracted", create comfortable conditions?

 - Sure. But so far the initiative comes from the investors themselves. For "incoming" investors who themselves decide to implement some kind of investment project here, we, for our part, create the most favorable conditions - we shorten the terms for issuing all kinds of permits as much as possible, help to collect technical conditions, all other documents-permits required business to start working, connecting to engineering and utility structures. We understand that our city or region may not be familiar to investors. Of course, we try to do everything possible from the point of view of hospitality to make the investor comfortable. The main thing for us is mutually beneficial, transparent and fruitful cooperation.

- Can you give examples of such cooperation, name organizations, enterprises?

- For example, timber processing investors came to us, we helped them in the preparation of documents, in conjunction with the development institutions of the Far East. Also, we have successfully worked to support the largest investment project of RusHydro for us in recent years - the construction of a thermal power plant, the construction of a house for its employees. They themselves say that such a speed of passage of documents, approvals, and a focus on a positive result can hardly be found anywhere else. This feedback speaks to our quality work in creating an enabling environment.

Electrical the capacity of the Sovetskaya Gavan CHPP is 126 MW, heat - 200 Gcal / h
Photo: PJSC "RusHydro"

But, of course, that's not all. I am currently working on attracting potential investors in other industries. Due to the expensive logistics and delivery of building materials here, there is a need to interest investors in the production of building materials from the so-called "fly ash". This is the white dust that collects on the electromagnetic catchers in the pipe. It can be used to produce bricks, blocks, building mixtures. This technology has already been applied in Europe, in Germany in particular. China made the People's Brick program on the processing of this material. We have one such plant in Russia - in Omsk, and I would like to see a similar one. This will immediately become a driver for development here, for construction - thanks to cheap building materials, and it is good for the environment - that this dust is utilized and becomes a building material. And with this idea I am now trying to reach all levels, but so far no one is showing interest.

- In economic news we often hear “Vanino-Sovetsko-Gavanskiy knot”, but at the same time there is a feeling that all port facilities and infrastructure are located in Vanino. Is this so and why is Vanino more on the hearing?

- Vanino initially developed as a port, everything was optimized for port activities, there is a railway junction, and, I repeat, a single-track road leads to us and in Sovetskaya Gavan the emphasis was placed on the industrial direction - ship repair, shipbuilding - civil and military. And yes - this railway “thread” is in no way enough for the development of port activities. And not only the road itself is needed - access roads, mooring walls are needed here. And therefore, as I already said, when the conversation began about the expansion of BAM, about the Eastern landfill, all large coal companies, stevedoring companies - everything is limited only to Vanino, there is all this infrastructure, they are ready to increase transshipment, the main thing for them is to carry more. We also have port activities, but they are small, although they are intensifying. 

The volume of cargo turnover of the seaport Sovetskaya Gavan in January-December 2020 for the first time in the history of the port exceeded 1 million tons, which is almost 83% higher than the final indicator of 2019. So there is movement, but if there was a full-fledged railroad, then oil companies could show interest in our capabilities, then gas processing, liquefaction, and hydrogen production could be established here. That is, all modern trends could be embodied here.

Another problem of ours, which we still cannot cope with, is the large number of lands and water areas that are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. Because of this, we have very little development of mariculture, although all the conditions, it would seem, for this direction are there. We have an entrepreneur who breeds scallops and sea cucumbers, but this is literally a single story. We have repeatedly addressed both directly to the Ministry of Defense and through the regional authorities - and this is not only a problem of Sovetskaya Gavan, not only of the Khabarovsk Territory, but also of Primorye and Kamchatka - and we received a refusal, they say, no, we will not transfer anything. But even if they themselves used it - even if they returned the military fleet here to us, as it was before - this would also give civilians jobs and taxes ...

- That is, the lack of transport infrastructure and land of the Ministry of Defense are the main constraining factors for the development of Sovetskaya Gavan. Is there no problem with the power industry with the commissioning of a new CHPP? Its capacity is probably enough to meet the current needs of the city itself, and there is also a reserve?

- In fact, not everything is so simple. There is a reserve, but it has already been reserved for Russian Railways, for BAM. Although we are talking about the reserve of the first stage of the CHPP. We now hope that RusHydro will consider the possibility of building the second stage of the CHPP so that those investors who are already planning to be present here - such as the Pacific Hydrometallurgical Plant, this is a Polymetal division - so that they can realize their investment backlog here. So that the energy is sufficient here, so that there are no problems with its availability.

- It is clear, that is, the issue with the energy sector can still be quickly resolved, the expansion of the railway is hanging in the air, but what about the road?

- There is a road - Lidoga - Vanino. Its edge was built, but it is of poor quality. In 2018, it was transferred to federal ownership and since then they have been trying to bring it into a normative state, although in general it is passing through. But the road Sovetskaya Gavan - Vanino - Mongokhto is already local, it urgently needs repair. But, be that as it may, the highway will not be able to become an alternative to railway communication, although travel along it is quite fast. You can get from Sovetskaya Gavan to Khabarovsk in six hours, and it will take a day by train! But if we take the possibilities of cargo turnover, then the road will not compete with the railroad. Yes, for small businesses, for individual entrepreneurs, for the transportation of even containers, some piece things, the road is more interesting, but as for bulk cargo and the like, only the railway makes sense. And its limited bandwidth is a limiting factor. The exit of the Sovetsko-Gavansky region to the BAM is carried out by a single-track railway, the length of which within the boundaries of the region is 25 km. There is a railway station in the city - Sovgavan-gorod. The station now handles 1-1,2 million tons of cargo annually. But the problem is still in the absence of railway approaches to the berths of the port of Sovetskaya Gavan and in the dependence of the passage of cargo flows from the cargo carriers of the Vaninsky region. The construction of a new bypass section of the railway will solve many of the problems of cargo transportation. Optimization of the route will increase the throughput to 25 million tons per year, with the electrification of the railway track, this figure will increase to 50 million tons! This is almost 25 and 50 times an increase in comparison with what we have today. I believe that this is a sufficient argument in favor of the construction of a bypass railway track. And I am moving in this direction.

It is proposed to build a bypass railway not by a “second” route parallel to the existing one, but bypassing Vanino and the entrances to the already built transshipment terminals.

- In the development project of Sovetskaya Gavan, which became your thesis on the course MPA (English Master of Public Administration - management training program) of the Far Eastern Federal University, as one of the risks you indicate the "high environmental activity" of the population. And I cannot but ask if this activity has become the reason why A-Property has curtailed the project for the construction of a coal terminal on the territory of the district? Or what was it like there?

- It's too early to say that the project has been closed completely, there is no feedback yet, but yes - they wanted to make A-Property in the village of Zavety Ilyich a modern coal transshipment terminal in order to export coal from the Elga deposit through it. But they suspended their project due to the capacity of the railway - this moment is now just the risk of the investor, which did not allow the project to be realized. But even at the preliminary stage, A-Property seriously helped the budget of the local municipality, proved to be respectable partners.

- But there was a story with discontent of local residents, who were afraid of dusting that occurs during the transshipment of a corner, as it was often reported from neighboring Vanino?

- There were some, but there were those who were in favor, who wanted the terminal to appear. And let's not forget that dusting in Vanino occurred only where the port facilities that were not adapted for handling coal were used, and not originally built in compliance with all environmental requirements. But Vanino also has a terminal that operates in compliance with all these requirements, and A-Property, realizing all this responsibility, they planned to build just such a modern terminal. But yes - public hearings were held in the district, there were many “against” votes, but there were many “for”. And I would say that those who were “for” were no less, and maybe more. At the same time, A-Property promised to take into account all the wishes, but nevertheless the main risk for them was the quality of the railway, its throughput.

- By the way, recently, at a meeting with the President of the country, information was heard that Russian Railways, at the suggestion of Elgaugol, is considering the possibility of building a railway line to export coal from Yakutia, parallel to the BAM and Transsib - with access to the village of Chumikan and the Udskaya Bay. Does this mean that the Elga is completely lost for Sovetskaya Gavan?

- Although I understand that it would be good for the development of a large economy, I, of course, feel very sorry if such a project leaves us. But on the other hand, this is only a proposal so far, and there it is necessary to build a railway from the field from scratch, but here the distance is shorter, and here, moreover, it would be possible to deploy a good repair base for wagons, everything is there for this. And while there is specific information that A-Property is leaving us, I want to believe that their coal transshipment project will be implemented in our country.

- How realistic is the revival of ship repair production in Sovetskaya Gavan? Can it be interesting to anyone at all?

- I think we need to talk not only about ship repair, but also about shipbuilding. After all, look - both the old Soviet fleet and the ships bought wherever possible recently - sometimes they cannot reach Vladivostok for repairs, and here it would be in demand, but it is necessary to build. I would like to be heard at the United Shipbuilding Company, so that those good ideas that were in Soviet times, so that they are implemented, so that our coast becomes a center for shipbuilding and ship repair. And at the same time, so that the port and port activities become a new pivot for the development of Sovetskaya Gavan. All other industries, I think, will catch up on their own when there is an active life in the port. I would like people who make decisions to come to us - let it be two, three people, so that they can see the potential of this place. So that the words of the Warrior Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov, who came here on the frigate Pallada, come true: “It is difficult to find such a Harbor in the whole world. All the fleets of the world can easily fit here in perfect tranquility from all winds and bad weather. We can now, having in our hands such a harbor, the mouth of the Amur and Sakhalin, to own all the trade of the North Pacific Ocean. " 


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